Sunday, August 19, 2012

Okay So Far: The Twilight Series

For a while I had avoided reading any of the Twilight books, because I enjoy a good night's sleep and am suspicious of popular books. Sometimes people equate commercial success with boring, safe writing, and I am usually in that camp. My friends convinced me that I should at least give the Twilight books a chance before rendering a verdict.

Stephenie Meyer is inspired by literary classics such as Wuthering Heights and Pride and Prejudice and the influence is very much apparent in the plot, characterization and setting of the first book in the series.  In Wuthering Heights, the moors provide a dark presence which almost serves as a character in an of itself.  Twilight features the scenery of the Pacific Northwest and its near-constant state of rain, is essential in creating the dreary mood of the novel.  Arguably this is is not executed as well as the Gothic Wuthering Heights, one still gets the general idea that this effect is what Meyer is trying to achieve.  

The other work which Twilight owes a debt to is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Clearly, Edward's character is deeply rooted in the tradition of brooding, aloof, but ultimately good heroes that was originated by Austen.  Though Edward falls short of the Mr. Darcy standard, an alert reader can definitely spot the similarities.  I see the appeal that such a character would have with grown women and teenage girls alike, and Meyer is clever to use a time-tested formula. Personally, I am not all that enamoured with standoffish, yet perfectly formed men, maybe based on the negative effect that they had on my love life before I hit age twenty-five.  After that, I basically went over to Team Jacob, before such a thing even existed.  

I was pleasantly surprised, however, with the character of Bella.  The movies don't really fully delve into her quirks and clumsy nature in the way that the book does, and it is a bit of a shame.  Her humanity and utter ordinariness are at the heart of the narrative and allow the average person to connect with what her character is going through.  I think that Bella is one of the rare rays of sunshine in this somewhat dreary story, although I think that she is a bit quick to set her sights on immortality.  I'm not sure how good an example it is that Bella wishes to give up her family and friends in favour of a boy that she hasn't known for all that long.  Maybe being close to death every moment she is with Edward serves to enhance their time together.  Who knows.  

I've only read the first book in the series, and I am under the impression that it is just a warm-up for the books yet to come, thus I don't want to be too hasty in passing judgement. At the same time, I have to be honest and I felt like the book was just satisfactory and borrowed a bit too much from classic works.  I would have liked Edward to be a more three-dimensional character, and for the scenery to be better utilized. The uniquely depressing quality of the Pacific Northwest (I live there and therefore I can say it) could be more thoroughly described and used to create a more mournful mood.  What I will say is that I plan on slowly making my way through the entire series, rather than making this my final verdict.  Though biased, I am still fair.  

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